Thursday, 21 August 2008

Fuchsia Futures

F. 'Dancing Flame'

On Tuesday, I went to visit the fabulous gardens at RHS Wisley again, spurred on by the fact that this week they are holding their August Flower Show, which this year celebrates the 70th birthday of the British Fuchsia Society.As part of the show, there were many Gold Medal exhibitors stands to drool over. The British Fuchsia Society staged a show in the Marquee, and it was fascinating to try and figure out why one entry had been awarded a higher place than another.

F. 'Orient Express'

One lady exhibitor was even offering samples of her home-made Fuchsia Berry Jelly. I tried this on a water biscuit and it was delicious. It reminded me of Redcurrant Jelly, and I am sure it would work well in both sweet and savoury dishes and as an accompaniment. There were also fabulous displays of Fuchsias in the Glasshouse entrance, and a Fuchsia trial was in progress and on display here too.

F. 'La Campanella'

Extra special treat though was that I got to meet blogging friend and garden writer for Independent Newspaper, Emma Townshend. We nattered endlessly as we both took pictures left right and centre at all the exhibits and tried desperately hard not to bankrupt ourselves.I was very good and only bought 3 plants of Dianella tasmanica 'Emerald Arch', I think Emma succumbed to a few Fuchsias. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet Emma, and really enjoyed her company as we trundled around the Marquee enjoying the beautiful plants and displays.


Fuchsia Jelly Recipe

1½lbs ripe Fuchsia berries (seed pods)
¾lb sugar
2 lemons
4 tbsp water or apple juice


Place fruit in a thick based pan with the liquid, bring to boil and simmer until tender, pressing the juice from the berries with a wooden spoon. Place in a sterilised straining cloth or jelly bag and allow to drip into a bowl overnight . DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BAG. Measure the juice, and top it up with water to measure 1 pint if required. Add the juice of the lemons. Put into a heavy based saucepan with the sugar , and stir gently on a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved in the berry liquid. Bring to the boil until setting point has been reached. Pot up in clean warm jars and cover in the usual way.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008


Helleborus orientalis 'Hillier hybrid Pink Double Spotted'.

Hellebores, are winter and spring flowering perennials that are native to British Isles, Europe, parts of China, and Turkey. We commonly know them under the names of Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose or Stinking Hellebore and they make wonderful garden plants when little else is showing colour.

Helleborus x sternii 'Hot Flash' with Uncinia rubra

There are about 20 different species and crosses, most are noted for their frost resistance and ability to stand up to even the harshest conditions. They will tolerate most soils from chalk to clay and seem to be tolerant of acid soils too (the pictures in the blog are from my garden which is on acid soil). You can make them feel more comfortable with the addition of readily available mushroom compost if you are on acid soil, which will alter the pH of the soil because of the lime content in it. They enjoy plenty of humus or leaf mould in the soil , in conditions that don't get dry in summer, in shade or part shade, and regular mulching will help maintain plants in good condition.

Helleborus lividus

Hellebores have a long and ancient association with man, and have been variously used for medicinal, occult and warfare! The ancient Greeks used them to poison wells of their enemies, whilst Pliny described it as a purgative for the demented. Even in more recent times it was thought along with Borage to cure melancholy, and in old French legend, it was used by a Wizard to procure invisibility!

Helleborus foetidus

My personal favourites are the H. orientalis hybrids which have become the object of the plantsmen's skill to create better and bolder blooms in various forms and colours, where you can now find varieties sporting black, yellow pink , purple, red, spots, speckles and various double and anenome forms in seemingly unending variety. I have put a series of links showing where National Collections of Hellebores can be found and where they can be seen growing at the optimum in UK gardens on the right hand side of the blog.

In my own garden, I often cut them and bring them indoors, although they seem to last longer, and you can see their beautiful faces more easily, if you place them stemless in a shallow bowl of water as above. Below I have placed a slide show of some of the H. orientalis varieties I have in my own garden so that you can look at them individually and see which is which. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.